West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery - Ministerial decision 2004

Ministerial Decision
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 19 March 2004

The Hon Kim Chance MLC
Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
11th Floor, Dumas House
2 Havelock Street
West Perth WA 6005

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in relation to the assessment of the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery (WCDSCIMF) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act). In August 2003 the Department of Fisheries Western Australia (DFWA) submitted the document entitled Application to Environment Australia on the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery for assessment under the Act.

The submission has been assessed for the purposes of the protected species provisions of Part 13 and the wildlife trade provisions of Part 13A of the Act.

I am pleased to advise that assessment of the fishery is now complete. The assessment report will be available on the Department of the Environment and Heritage website at: www.ea.gov.au/coasts/fisheries/index.html.

I am satisfied that the management arrangements for the fishery require that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that protected species are not injured or killed and the level of interactions with such species in the fishery is not likely to adversely affect the conservation status of protected species or the survival and recovery of listed threatened species. Hence, the management arrangements for the WCDSCIMF meet the requirements of Part 13 of the Act and I propose to accredit the management arrangements accordingly. Accreditation will ensure that individual fishers operating in accordance with the management arrangements are not required to seek permits in relation to interactions with protected species in Commonwealth waters.

I am satisfied that the operation of the fishery is consistent with objects of the wildlife trade provisions in Part 13A of the Act. I am also satisfied that it is unlikely to be detrimental to the survival or conservation status of any taxon to which the fishery operation relates, or threaten any relevant ecosystem. The fishery is relatively well managed and operates under an adaptable and precautionary ecologically based regime capable of controlling, monitoring and enforcing the level of take from the fishery. Performance against the Australian Government Guidelines for the ecologically sustainable management of fisheries is adequate, however there are a number of issues that need to be addressed to contain environmental risks in the longer term. Hence, I propose to declare the fishery an approved Wildlife Trade Operation (WTO), under Part 13A of the Act. This declaration would allow the export of product from the fishery for the next three years. I will make the declaration subject to the conditions at Attachment A.

In making my decision I had particular regard to DFWA's commitment to conduct a major review of the fishery management regime at the end of 2004. I am also aware that substantial research into the snow crab resource is underway and will be used to determine how best to manage the resource into the future. I welcome DFWA's efforts to improve understanding of the resource and implement appropriately precautionary management arrangements. I understand that the review may result in significant changes to the management arrangements for the fishery, hence, a number of recommendations made in the assessment of this fishery are linked to the review. I strongly urge DFWA to incorporate issues raised through recommendations in the review of the fishery to ensure that these matters are taken into account in developing any new management arrangements for the fishery.

The fishery is in a developmental stage and has made considerable progress in developing sound management arrangements. Of particular note is the current move to replace the voluntary minimum size for snow crabs with a legal minimum size - which is around 30 mm larger than the sizes at sexual maturity of males and females. The combination of expanded mandatory monitoring and reporting arrangements, improved assessment tools and the proposed review of the fishery in late 2004 will improve the level of understanding and confidence in the state of the fishery and its environmental impacts. As the focus has switched first from giant crabs to champagne crabs, then to snow crabs during the past decade, the key management strategy of setting minimum sizes to ensure protection of spawning stocks and, hence, recruitment to all three stocks has been particularly appropriate.

The management regime aims to ensure that fishing is conducted in a manner that does not lead to over-fishing and for fishing operations to be managed to minimise their impact on the structure, productivity, function and biological diversity of the ecosystem. On balance, the fishery is being managed in an ecologically sustainable manner and is working to address existing problems and to minimise environmental risks.

While there are some environmental risks associated with this fishery, I believe that DFWA is committed to addressing these issues and is already taking proactive steps in some areas. Officers from our two departments have discussed key areas requiring ongoing and increased attention. I understand that they have agreed to a number of recommended actions, focusing on addressing key issues, to be implemented before the next Commonwealth review of the fishery. The recommendations (Attachment B) have been an important factor in my decision to declare the fishery a WTO and I look forward to receiving your confirmation that they will be implemented.

I would like to thank you for the constructive way in which your officials have approached this assessment and I look forward to reviewing the remainder of the Western Australian managed fisheries.

Yours sincerely

[signed]

Ian Cresswell
Delegate of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage

19th March 2004

Proposed conditions on the Approved Wildlife Trade Declaration for the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery

  1. Operation of the fishery will be carried out in accordance with the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Fishery (Interim) Management Plan 2003 and management regime for the fishery in force under the Western Australian Fish Resources Management Act 1994 and Fish Resources Management Regulations 1995.
  2. The Reports to be produced and presented to the Australian Government Department of Environment and Heritage annually, and to include:
    1. A description of the status of the fishery and catch and effort information;
    2. The performance of the fishery against stated goals, objectives, strategies and reference points;
    3. Research undertaken or completed relevant to the fishery; and
    4. An outline of progress in implementing the recommendations made in the Assessment of the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery 2004.

Recommendations to the Department of Fisheries Western Australia (DFWA) on the ecologically sustainable management of the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed Fishery

The West Coast Deep Sea Crab Interim Managed fishery is a relatively well-managed fishery with a range of significant management measures to promote the ecologically sustainable harvesting of species from the fishery.

The fishery is in a developmental stage and has made considerable progress in developing sound management arrangements. Of particular note is the current move to replace the voluntary minimum size for snow crabs with a legal minimum size and DFWA's commitment to conduct a major review of the fishery management regime at the end of 2004 to determine how best to manage the fishery resource into the future. The combination of expanded mandatory monitoring and reporting arrangements, improved assessment tools and the proposed review of the fishery will improve the level of understanding and confidence in the state of the fishery and its environmental impacts. As the focus has switched first from giant crabs to champagne crabs, then to snow crabs during the past decade, the key management strategy of setting minimum sizes to ensure protection of spawning stocks and, hence, recruitment to all three stocks has been particularly appropriate.

While the fishery is relatively well managed, a number of risks and uncertainties that must be managed to ensure that their impacts are minimised have been identified. The following recommendations aim to address these risks and uncertainties. DFWA should action these recommendations before the next review of the fishery in 2007 or within the timeframe specified in individual recommendations.

  1. DFWA to immediately inform DEH of any action taken to address threats to the sustainability of the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Fishery.
  2. DFWA to ensure that the ESD report, including all performance measures, responses and information requirements, is formally incorporated into the management regime and decision making process.
  3. DFWA to ensure, where appropriate, that any relevant conservation interests in the fishery are considered throughout consultative mechanisms. In particular, in conducting the review of the fishery and in developing any new management arrangements for the fishery, DFWA to ensure that participation by conservation interests is specifically sought.
  4. DFWA to conduct, within 12 months, a compliance risk assessment to determine the most effective use of resources and to specify the measures needed to ensure adequate compliance with the management regime. Within two years, DFWA to develop and implement a compliance strategy for the fishery that includes clear management actions and the means of measuring the performance of the strategy on a defined and regular basis.
  5. As part of the review of the fishery, DFWA to review catch and effort reporting requirements, and amend these requirements as necessary, to ensure that the completeness and reliability of fishery dependent information is maximised. DFWA to also ensure that catch and effort data collected is validated on an ongoing basis.
  6. As part of the review of the fishery, DFWA to review the research information needs and priorities to meet the management information, decision making and performance measurement needs of the fishery. DFWA to develop a research strategy to address identified priority areas, which includes clear and achievable timeframes for implementation within the context of available research funds.
  7. DFWA to determine estimates of the potential productivity and sustainable yield of the snow crab resources and develop robust and biologically meaningful performance measures and reference points, linked to defined management actions for the snow crab resource within three years. As an interim measure, by June 2004, DFWA to incorporate catch rates (i.e. Catch-Per-Unit-Effort) into the monitoring, assessment and performance measures for the snow crab component of the fishery.
  8. DFWA to ensure that management arrangements to control the take of joint deep sea crab stocks in the West Coast Deep Sea Crab Fishery and South Coast Crustacean Fishery are consistent and stock assessments ensure that all removals from both fisheries are taken into account. In addition, DFWA to ensure that removals of deep sea crabs by trawling operations are considered in stock assessment and management.
  9. As part of the review of the fishery, DFWA to review effort levels in the fishery and develop a strategy to ensure that fishery effort is maintained at precautionary levels appropriate to the size of the deep sea crab resources and the species' vulnerability to overfishing.
  10. DFWA to continue to pursue identification of all non-commercial bycatch species and seek advice from the WA Museum on the biological risks of these species. Findings are to be incorporated into future risk assessments and management responses.
  11. As part of the review of the fishery, DFWA to assess the adequacy of monitoring and assessment arrangements for detecting change and trends in bycatch composition and quantity and species interactions.